Daily Maverick Fifa, the real master of the universe, gets its claws into SA justice system
On Thursday the South African government handed over more power to Fifa, this time 56 special courts that will operate for the duration of the World Cup (and just happen to have cost taxpayers R45 million). What master wants, master gets, and be warned: Fifa is relishing having the police and justice system at its disposal, all in aid of making the tournament successful, of course.
The British tabloids announced recently that anyone who breaks the law in South Africa during the World Cup will receive a complimentary Hannibal Lecter straightjacket and free train ride to the Karoo.
A bit of background: When Fifa and South Africa were planning the World Cup all those years ago, crime must have popped up on the agenda.
FIFA: You guys better do something about that
DANNY: Yes master.
And so, Jeff Radebe and his Ministry of Justice pulled R45 million out of the kitty and began setting up special courts around the country. Hundreds of magistrates, prosecutors, legal aid lawyers, court orderlies (those snoozing police officers) and translators were chosen and placed on stand-by.
The 56 courts will run late into the night, seven days a week, and â all going according to plan â will finalise cases in a matter of days. This will save visitors the pain of coming back to South Africa to testify and â knowing our system â watching in horror as their case is postponed yet again. The courts mean good overtime pay for those involved â so, in theory, they should function well. They opened for business on May 28 and will remain in operation until July 25.
The launch of these courts took place yesterday at the Randburg Magistrateâs Court in northern Johannesburg. (No, we donât know why it was held a week after the courts opened.) The function turned out to be a World Cup special: the tent, the big speakers, the vuvuzelas, the diski dancers and a handful of dignitaries. Radebe was obviously there, as was the National Prosecuting Authorityâs resident DIY expert Menzi Simelane, Danny Jordaan, Fifa man Valcke and former soccer legend turned guest speaker Lucas Radebe.
The speeches went off okay â despite the MC assuming the chief magistrate at the court was a man, when she is very much a woman. That awkward moment aside, the speakers took turns to tell us (just in case we didnât know it yet) that South Africa is ready for the World Cup.
An interesting bit came from Simelane, who revealed the special courts have already dealt with four cases. These arenât exactly terrorists caught moments before blowing up a stadium â but they are rather interesting. One involves a Frenchman drinking and driving in Durban. The courts are waiting for blood tests (everybody take a long breath), after which the trial will resume. Another is the theft of a laptop from a Peruvian, but the case was dropped due to lack of evidence. The third saw a visiting businessman steal a camera from another, but was also dropped after the company decided to deal with the matter internally. And then, of course, there is the case of the two hotel cleaners who allegedly cleaned out the Colombian soccer team at their fancy hotel in Hyde Park. That one is dragging out and was postponed again yesterday.
Simelane says the system is ready. Weâll wait and see before making that judgment.
The coup de grÃ¢ce came from Valcke, who spoke about our police officers and courts as a tool at his disposal. He began by admitting (and it makes sense in a French accent): âVery often people are saying, but why Fifa wants this, Fifa wants that, and Fifa is a bad company or institution, that Fifa is taking over South Africaâ¦â
He then reminded the room that âfootball is hopeâ and hope equals world peace. Or something like that.
And then the darkness descended (at least it would have in a movie): âWe will protect our World Cup whatever we have to do â thatâs very clear. Even if we again are looking as bad guysâ¦ or me personally as a bad guyâ¦ but thatâs my roleâ¦ is to protect the world cupâ¦ and to protect Fifaâ¦ and thatâs what I will do. And to do this I need the police, I need the justiceâ¦ Because the World Cup has to be a success.â